Article ID: CBB463043538

“A backdrop for psychotherapy”: Carl R. Rogers, psychological testing, and the psycho-educational clinic at Columbia University’s Teachers College (1924–1935) (2021)


Carl Rogers’ work in clinical psychology and psychotherapy has been as influential as it is vast and varied. However, as a topic of historical inquiry Rogers’ approach to clinical psychology is beset by historiographical lacunae. Especially vague have been Rogers’ own reflections about his student years (1925–1928) at Columbia University’s Teachers College. Rogers claimed that he received the “backdrop” for the development of his approach to psychotherapy at the College. However, most historical literature has overlooked Rogers’ early years by focusing on his later work. This article aims to shed light on Rogers’ initial academic education by delving into his backdrop idea. I explore Rogers’ early years at Columbia by using his retroactive appraisals as a conduit for reconstructing his first formal institutional context—Columbia’s highly active but short-lived psycho-educational clinic. By drawing on several archival sources and unpublished materials, I will argue that the College’s intellectual and institutional climate fostered Rogers’ appreciation of experiential and cognitive learning while stimulating his intellectual independence as a clinical psychologist. The clinic put him in contact with real children, trained him in psychological tests, offered concrete professional role models, and pointed him toward his lifelong concern with human individuality. This contextual reading of Rogers’ education allows for a deeper, more informed understanding of both his academic origins and his immediate intellectual context amid American clinical psychology during the interwar years. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

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Authors & Contributors
Richardson, John Thomas Edwin
Kugelmann, Robert
Zumwalt, Rosemary Lévy
Wu, Yu-chuan
Todd, Edmund N.
Takasuna, Miki
History of Psychology
Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Journal of Humanistic Psychology
History of the Human Sciences
Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center
University of Nebraska Press
State University of New York Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Lawrence Erlbaum
Columbia University Press
Science education and teaching
Science and religion
Personality disorders
Rogers, Carl R.
Knox , Howard Andrew
Freud, Sigmund
Kokyo, Nakamura
Wundt, Wilhelm Max
Skinner, Burrhus Frederic
Time Periods
20th century, early
19th century
20th century
20th century, late
United States
New York (U.S.)
Leipzig (Germany)
Columbia University
Committee for Research on the Problems of Sex (CRPS) (1920-1965)
University of Edinburgh
American Museum of Natural History, New York

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